Victory! AZA Bans Bullhooks
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) has announced that it will phase out the use of bullhooks—cruel weapons used on captive elephants to force them to do the bidding of human masters. Excepting emergencies and non-routine medical care, the phase-out will ultimately ban bullhooks entirely by 2023.
This positive news from AZA headquarters is most welcome and we are especially heartened that several facilities have already stated they will comply.
Roger Williams Park Zoo is among the zoos that will have to phase out the use of these weapons. Despite its location in Rhode Island, which hosts one of two state-wide bullhook bans (to which Roger Williams is exempt, due to its lobbying against the ban), the Zoo has insisted on continuing its use of bullhooks. Trainers wield the sharp hooks in full view of the public and even feature a bullhook display in attempts to normalize the abuse! This is one of the reasons that Roger Williams landed a spot on our 2018 list of the 10 Worst Zoos for Elephants.
We are thrilled to share news that Roger William Park Zoo is among the zoos that has agreed to comply with the elephant-weapons phase-out! This is a victory for elephants, and a victory for team In Defense of Animals. Over 10,000 committed In Defense of Animals supporters petitioned the Zoo asking that it stop using bullhooks to control elephants after we shamed the Zoo.
Caring members of the public are increasingly rejecting the use of cruel bullhooks; and the AZA bullhook ban follows numerous bullhook bans that already exist across the United States.
It is widely accepted that bullhooks are entirely unnecessary for any aspect of elephant management in captivity, even in emergencies, which the AZA ban will still allow after 2023. According to the AZA, only around 30 of its listed facilities continue to use bullhooks and will be affected by the new ban, including the Oregon Zoo which has been featured on our list of the 10 Worst Zoos for Elephants numerous times. However, the majority of AZA's 236 member zoos claim they do not use the weapons. Given that so many facilities do not use bullhooks, including accredited sanctuaries which never use them, these weapons are clearly not necessary.
We applaud the AZA for changing course and deciding to phase out the use of this cruel weapon once and for all. We hope that the AZA will extend its compassionate stand and ban cruel imports of wild elephants.